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Districts reinventing themselves with blended learning

The Scranton School District in Pennsylvania has become one of the most recent to make the switch to a blended learning classroom model as it looks for ways to give public school students the best education possible.

According to The Scranton Times-Tribune, many school districts across Northern Pennsylvania are making the switch to blended learning as a means of competing with increasingly popular cyber charter schools.

Although public schools have never needed to be competitive before, they are now in a position of having to rebrand themselves, William King, superintendent of the Scranton School District, explained. This is where blended learning comes in.

Blended Learning:
Blended learning is a unique method of instruction that combines face-to-face interaction with technology. Teachers are able to spend more one-on-one time with their students in the classroom because the adaptive learning technology that students are using to learn new concepts allows them to work at their own pace.

This gives students a unique amount of control over the learning process, helping them to take an active interest in their education and the information that they're ingesting.

"Among the many benefits of blended and fully online learning, those that educators value the most are the ability to reach digital native students where they live and to give each student the opportunity to participate and have a voice in class activities," Susan Booth, senior director of strategic initiatives for the National Association of Independent Schools, explained in a report.

Blended learning programs come in many shapes and sizes - some continue to have teachers deliver all new information, while others ask students to use the provided technology to learn concepts at home and come to school ready to practice and perfect them.

In Scranton, students would complete their coursework at home with the option of attending school for certain classes and participating in extracurricular activities, according to The Scranton Times-Tribune.

"We are passionate about engaging the high school student in this process," King told the source. "They have to help us design how this works."

Scranton's planned approach to blended learning most closely resembles the Flex model, as described by the nonprofit Innosight Institute.

Flex Model:
Through the Flex model, students receive most of their information via the internet. They have the option to individually customize their schedule and meet face-to-face with a teacher on-site if they so choose.

Teachers are able to provide support as needed, using activities such as individual tutoring, small-group instruction and group projects to supplement online learning.

While the degree of face-to-face interaction with teachers and peers varies in a Flex model of blended learning, Scranton's plan to retain extracurricular activities would allow students to keep certain aspects of traditional high school.

For King, blended learning could be the key to not only convincing Scranton students to remain in the public school system, but also ensuring that each student has the opportunity to learn in a way that will help him or her be successful.

"It's exciting," King told The Scranton Times-Tribune. "We're creating multiple pathways to a diploma for our kids."

EdWeb.Net What impact has blended learning made in your classroom? Share your learnings with other administrators and educators in our blended learning community.